PAX is urging the Dutch government to take a number of steps to prevent the situation in South Sudan from deteriorating further. The recommendations are aimed at fostering the Action Plan for Peace, national dialogue, transitional justice and civic space.
The situation in South Sudan is dire. More than half a million South Sudanese are expected to flee to other countries in the coming year. That would bring the total number of refugees fleeing South Sudan to 2.5 million. About the same amount of people are or will be internally displaced within the country before the end of the year. The armed conflict is becoming more fragmented. The 2015 peace accord is being violated on a daily basis (the accord is set to expire in August, 2018).
A multilateral political strategy for an inclusive, widely supported peace process remains elusive, whereby regional authorities increasingly view the conflict from their own, bilateral interests. The current government is not legitimate under the terms of the peace accord, and First Vice President Taban Deng Gai lacks support and legitimacy as political head of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition. A multilateral political strategy is sorely needed and the Dutch government could play an important role at a number of levels in achieving such a strategy.
Action Plan for Peace
At the moment, the South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC) is the only organization which can give form to a broadly supported national peace process. In 2015, various South Sudanese church leaders laid the basis for an Action Plan for Peace. Implementation of this plan began in 2016 via three pillars: advocacy, reconciliation and neutral forums. The impact at local levels is already apparent. Neutral forums in Wau (Bahr El-Ghazal) and Yambio (Western Equatoria) have led to brief periods of peace, but these need to be strengthened. A national process is yet to begin. The Dutch government should support the SSCC’s Action Plan for Peace.
Last month, the so-called Troika (the United Kingdom, Norway and the United States) circulated a proposal for a national dialogue. This proposal met the following basic criteria: a cease fire, freedom of expression, inclusivity of all political and military parties, safety for the participants, good communication with the public, a neutral location, clear rules and procedures, and a process for supporting the current Agreement for the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS) peace accord.
In contrast, the national dialogue launched by President Salva Kiir in December 2016 does not meet these basic criteria. It resembles the national dialogue in Sudan, which has served only to exacerbate the conflict. It was set up under the auspices of the current authoritarian regime, without freedom of expression and without including all the parties. President Kiir indicated on 7 April that the national dialogue would be delayed due to lack of funds.
PAX advises the Dutch government to establish clear basic criteria for political and/or military support for a national dialogue process in South Sudan, and not to lend any support to the current government’s dialogue proposals.
For the first time in South Sudan, transitional justice was explicitly stated in the ARCSS peace accord. But that aspect of the accord is currently not being implemented. The Transitional Justice Working Group, a group of South Sudanese civil society leaders, is working on a strategic plan with a number of important civil society organizations, but lacks funds to implement the plan. PAX advices the Dutch government to highlight transitional justice, and to make funds available to the Working Group.
For years, it has been increasingly difficult for the media and civil society to operate or to speak critically. Recently, journalists and civil society leaders are under surveillance, in some cases even when they go abroad. Many are in constant danger for their lives. PAX calls on the Dutch government to do what it can to make sure journalists and members of civil society can work safely in South Sudan.